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Oh God, there it is again. You would think with 9 weeks down in this competition this feeling of raw nerves in the pit of my stomach would have diminished a little bit by now. With my hanging-on each week and practically clawing my way through 9 other finalists to reach this: the pinnacle, the finale, I can honestly say that I’ve never worked harder at anything in my life. It is probably because I’ve never wanted anything more than this!
I have only one solo Star challenge victory under my belt, but I made it to the end and I could not be prouder of what I’ve accomplished so far. The Committee sees something in me, and I cannot let them down with a ho-hum “slacker Tom doesn’t care” performance on the pilot!
Waking up in NYC the morning of the pilot shoots, I still can’t believe I made it this far. Well...I guess I can believe it, but there is still the biggest challenge yet to go. Oh God, I’m going to throw up. This is it. This is why I fought tooth and nail (and got some good luck) for nine weeks. This is my “Big Chef” pitch to the Network, the last chance to blow away my competition and win my dream, and it has to be more perfect than anything I’ve done so far. It will be. “Big Chef” isn’t a cooking technique. It’s more of a cooking philosophy and a way of life in the kitchen that is absolutely 100% me and one I’ve been working on for 18 years. No fear Big Chef and stay bold and in control Big Chef. Man, I really should have eaten something this morning instead of pounding 3 cups of coffee. I should know better by now!
In the car over to Chelsea Market, Aarti, Herb and I run through the list of Food Network stars we have met along the way and those who we have not. We know somebody big is going to help mentor our pilots and we all guess Giada since she knows us and has been there for us throughout the competition (I would have been dead in the water at the Grove challenge if not for her advice and guidance!).
So when Rachael Ray shows up...well, it doesn’t help the nerves at all! She’s the master! The guru of cooking and talking at the same time! To say I’m intimidated would loosely describe my emotions; however, like all the personalities we have crossed paths with in this competition she is warm, genuine, and well receiving. She gives me great confidence and advice going into my pilot, and then she tells us she will be there to direct them. I can’t be more excited to get in the studio. Hi Rachael, I’m Tom Pizzica, my friends call me Big Chef.